It’s official: The Moon Person has landed on East Coast soil. On April 17, New York City officials and MTV celebrated the return of the MTV VMAs to New York’s Radio City Music Hall—home of the inaugural VMA ceremony in 1984.
A symbolic “moon landing” was held on Manhattan’s Avenue of the America’s under the venue’s marquee to commemorate the reunion of MTV and NYC.
Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin today joined the iconic VMA Moon Person; Bruce Gillmer, Global Head of Music/Talent, Co-Brand Lead, MTV International; and Darren Pfeffer, Executive Vice President of MSG live, to announce the location of the 2018 VMAs. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for MTV)
“New York City’s creative energy has always fueled those who live and work here. This is where music, film, and art collide and where the Video Music Awards were born,” said Mayor de Blasio. “There is no better place to host the MTV VMAs than in New York City at one of the most iconic venues in the world.”
Alexandra Neri, who works as a dubbing manager for Paramount’s Worldwide Distribution group, is the latest lucky Viacom employee to score free tickets to a tentpole awards show.
Below, she tells us what it’s like to win an employee sweepstakes, how impressed she was by the Nickelodeon’s “top notch” production, and why she’s proud to work for a company that let’s its employees engage in the magic of live events.
In March, I visited the home of Nickelodeon Animation in Burbank. I had seen photos and video footage of the pristine site after its renovation in January 2017, and was eager to appreciate its innovative features in real life.
After arriving at the front gate, a tall metal structure off Olive Avenue, I entered into a sprawling menagerie of botanical wonders, stone statues of iconic Nick characters like SpongeBob, retro-looking lawn furniture in splashy shades of orange, pink, green and blue; honey bees and towering palms.
And this is just the courtyard.
The five-story building has a free-form layout; its floor-to-ceiling glass walls serving as a circulatory system for creative collaboration. The campus seamlessly connects animation and live-action studios with offices, a café, screening room, employee lounges and more pockets of relaxation and entertainment.
When Time: The Kalief Browder Story debuted last March on Viacom’s Spike (now Paramount Network in the U.S.), it recounted the youth’s tragic incarceration and helped mobilize the movement to shut down New York City’s notorious Rikers Island prison. Now, the Peabody Awards, which salute compelling and crucial forms of digital storytelling, have nominated the six-part miniseries in its Documentary category.
Browder was 22 when he committed suicide after spending over three torturous years incarcerated on Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a backpack at age 16. His trial was repeatedly delayed until charges were dropped. He left prison with crippling PTSD—which ultimately led to his death by suicide.
In the last week, Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place won the domestic box office and MTV’s Jersey Shore Family Vacation rolled to the strongest unscripted cable debut in six years. The efforts provide commercial evidence of Viacom’s ongoing transformation – fueled by wide-ranging creative investments in talent, programming, and marketing.
The chart-topping numbers are especially encouraging in a media environment of ever-more-elusive audiences. The divergent paths to success of these two properties – A Quiet Place delivering something novel by elevating a horror story to a genre-busting blockbuster that appeals to all audiences, Jersey Shore Family Vacation building on MTV’s deep well of intellectual property to connect with its core demographic – underscore the way in which a creative renaissance is driving Viacom’s growth.
Marketing a near-silent film in an era of loud
Making a bet on the film’s potential playability, Paramount unveiled A Quiet Place at SXSW to great response. The highly original film immediately started compiling incredibly strong reviews. A clever marketing campaign then helped launch A Quiet Place to a $50.3 million opening weekend, good for the second-best domestic opening of 2018 (behind Black Panther). With a $17 million budget, the Platinum Dunes-produced and John Krasinski-directed film is a validation of Paramount’s reoriented slate and refreshed marketing approach under CEO Jim Gianopulos, who joined the studio last year.
“An innovative concept, with great talent both behind the camera and in front, and a savvy distribution and marketing plan led to Paramount’s biggest opening since 2016,” wrote Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in a staff memo about the film’s success.
Building strong relationships with talent has become a particular focus for Viacom under Bakish, and Krasinski, who will produce and star in the Paramount Television-produced Jack Ryan for Amazon and co-created Paramount Network’s hit show Lip Sync Battle, demonstrates the enormous cross-brand potential that forming such deep relationships can yield.
A Quiet Place’s unique storyline – featuring a family tiptoeing through a post-apocalyptic world infested with insectoid monsters that will devour anyone who makes a sound – created an opportunity for Paramount to execute an equally original pre-release marketing plan. They delivered: moviegoers in nearly 100 theater chains caught the sonically attuned monsters devouring noisy spectators in pre-show spots, with the stern warning that “the movie theater should be A Quiet Place.” A pre-Super Bowl ad, a launch of the second trailer on Ellen, and a kick-off spot and accompanying stunts at the SXSW Film Festival primed diverse audiences for the film’s release.
“Paramount’s reconstituted management team is focused on allowing great filmmakers to make great movies, and then doing everything we can to support those movies,” said Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. “In A Quiet Place, we did exactly that: We gave a talented young director license to put together something unlike anything else out there, and then threw our marketing and distribution expertise behind the project.”
Tapping an iconic property to connect with a core audience
Jersey Shore Family Vacation had less work to do in the name-recognition department, as its iconic predecessor, Jersey Shore, had long ago etched its cast into the cultural conversation. The unknown was whether this fist-pumping bunch, six years older and reunited in the beaches and bars of Miami, would still connect with audiences.
It did. The show’s nearly 10 million total viewers and 4.2 average rating in the core 18-34 demo on live-plus-three-days metrics made Jersey Shore Family Vacation the most-watched unscripted debut on U.S. cable since 2012. The original Jersey Shore had ignited a global franchise – with spin-offs in the UK, Spain, Poland and Mexico, plus the recently launched hit Floribama Shorein the U.S – and the cast’s return resonated globally, with the premiere airing in nearly 180 countries and territories.
The strong ratings complemented a seven-hour trending run on Twitter and acted as an emphatic endorsement of MTV’s revamped creative direction under President Chris McCarthy. Under his leadership, the network has grown ratings for three consecutive quarters for the first time in seven years behind a blend of revitalized franchises, returning classics and original programs.
“MTV is about celebrating youth culture and music where talent and creativity unite to produce content that resonates across generations,” said McCarthy, who also oversees VH1 and Logo. “Jersey Shore Family Vacation and the new Floribama Shore demonstrate how MTV can harness our heritage to create programming that appeals to a mass audience while serving as a great launching pad for our new series.”
Part of Team Viacom at Cycle for Survival’s New York City fundraiser.
In a continuing tradition central to Viacommunity’s All Good, All Year initiative, 24 Team Viacom employees in New York and Los Angeles joined the battle to beat rare cancers by participating in Cycle for Survival’s 12th year of rides, helping to raise some of the more than $40 million in critical funds that the organization has raised for rare cancer research this season alone.
In Los Angeles, eight riders rallied at Equinox Sports Club West LA for a four-hour single-bike relay, joining the more than 150 teams sharing 300 bikes among 1,500 participants. Paramount’s Anna Sivak won a $100 Amazon gift card from a Team Viacom fundraising challenge, while Equinox named the studio’s Kim Seiniger as the session’s most enthusiastic rider, awarding her a $100 donation to her fundraising page.
“Team Viacom was in full force for the Cycle for Survival ride at the Westside Equinox Gym. There were so many amazing riders pumped for the cause,” said Mary Jo Braun, executive director of Music Clearance at Paramount Pictures, who joined colleagues Ryan Stouffer Sandra Hiestand, Agnieszka Szymanska, Kevin Chalk and Stephanie Aguilar on the ride.
In New York, 16 riders shared two bikes over four hours at the second annual Media and Tech Innovators ride at Equinox Bryant Park, which hosted 600 riders from 30 companies.
“What an honor it was to be part of such a remarkable event and ride for those who have fought and continue to fight to beat rare cancers,” said Amanda Yasoshima, a manager at Velocity Brand Partnerships.
Viacom scored 13 nominees for this year’s Webby Awards, appearing across diverse categories – a blend of comedy, kids’ stuff, award shows activations, marketing campaigns, lifestyle programming and more – underscoring the company’s reach across broad demographics. Each of these 13 standouts is eligible for both The Webby Award – chosen by the 2,000-member International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences – and The Webby People’s Voice Award, which fans can vote on here through Thursday, April 19.
The 22nd annual iteration of the best-of-the-internet awards also granted Viacom 14 honoree slots, a sort of honorable mention that positions the activations alongside the vote-eligible finalists.
Click through below to vote for specific Viacom entries. The Webby Awards will announce this year’s honorees on Tuesday, April 24, and will host an award show in New York City on May 14. Fans can stream the show on the Webby website the following morning.
The Big Sick – Life in the Laugh Lane – Film & Video/Branded Entertainment/Comedy
Viacom celebrated Women’s History Month with events and activations throughout the company, including a global cross-brand collaboration for International Women’s Day on March 8, and employee events (including an employee Art Exhibit) sponsored by HERE, Viacom’s resource group for women.
Women’s History Month is especially fascinating at a creative company like Viacom, as different brands and divisions offer bespoke contributions to honor women’s achievement.
Take, for example, Nickelodeon’s Culture & Digital Community team in Burbank, which collaborated with their in-house archives team to curate and create a selection of digital content for the Nick Animation social media pages to honor women in Nickelodeon cartoons throughout March. Selections of their work are highlighted below.
Charlotte Pickles by Alison Loccrichio | Nick Animation
This one, created by intern Alison Loccrichio, sketches a magnificent portrait of her “favorite boss” Charlotte Pickles (who was indeed a boss; I can’t recall a single episode of The Rugrats where she was not dressed in a power suit with a ‘90s-era cell phone permanently attached to her ear), as part of a Women’s History Month series, “featuring pioneering Nickelodeon animated characters”:
Yes, Charlotte Pickles was truly a pioneer.
Grey Griffin Voices Lola, Lana and Lily from the Loud House | Nick Animation
Here’s another, featuring Grey Griffin, the actor who gives voice to Lola, Lana and Lily on The Loud House. “There’s always room for talented people,” said Griffin. “Don’t let anyone discourage you by telling you what a ‘small world’ it is. I mean, it is a tight circle, but if you’re good enough, the circle will widen!”
Viacom’s latest consumer insights include confronting discrimination in the US, what makes global kids flourish, American teens driving change, kids and sports in Australia, and who global teens trust. As always, on our blog you can find these and all our stories in English, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.
A 16-year-old girl in the United Arab Emirates organizes environmental clean-ups in more than 10 countries. A 13-year-old in the Philippines gives gifts and hygiene products to 10,000 street kids in his community. A 16-year-old who fled Syria starts a school for 200 children in his refugee camp.
These are three of the extraordinary youngsters that Nickelodeon International has partnered with KidsRights Foundation to spotlight through #KidsCan, an international campaign that will profile these inspiring stories for audiences around the world.
“Nickelodeon is extremely proud to partner with KidsRights as we celebrate young people making the world a better place, one project at a time,” said Nickelodeon International Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Bradley Archer-Haynes. “Kids everywhere have the power to make a difference, regardless of age or location. We wanted to provide a platform to help amplify their stories, while pointing to resources that help young people remember they can do anything.”
Here’s a closer look at some of these incredible stories:
Kehkashan Basu – United Arab Emirates: 2016 Peace Prize winner focused on environmental sustainability.